Book Review and Author Interview: Aneta Cruz

I’m super excited to share with you today’s STEAM inspired picture book. A story about a young girl’s dream to be an astronaut.

Title: ASTRONAUT TRAINING

Genre: STEAM Picture Book

Ages: 3-7

Author: Aneta Cruz

Illustrator: Olivia Aserr

Publisher: Boyds Mill Press

Synopsis:


Astrid is training to go to space! But as she builds her shuttle, cooks astronaut food, and practices floating in zero gravity, Dad tells Astrid that the ship’s construction is too dangerous, she’s too little to cook alone, and she’s not allowed to flood the bathroom. That night, when Astrid dreams she’s an astronaut, the challenges she encounters are overwhelming. Astrid realizes she isn’t as ready as she thought. Back on Earth, Astrid turns to her loving and supportive Dad, who helps Astrid continue her astronaut training.

Now, let’s meet the author behind this out of this world STEAM story!

Aneta Cruz

Welcome Aneta! I’m super excited to have you on the blog!

I know a lot of children would love to be astronauts just like Astrid. What was your inspiration behind ASTRONAUT TRAINING?


Being an astronaut was my childhood dream as well and I see a lot of my young self in Astrid. My most treasured memories are those of staying up way past bedtime and reading by my moonlit window because there was always one more chapter, one more book I had to finish. I am forever grateful to the Cosmos for giving me its light and to books for enlightening me.

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Did you publish this agented or unagented? What was that process like?

This book was published without an agent. I participated in Twitter’s #DVPit where I pitched Astrid’s story as “Goldilocks (in space) x Where the Wild Things Are.” Jes Negron, who was then the acquiring editor at Boyds Mills & Kane liked the pitch and requested to see the MS after I queried her. With her guidance, I revised the MS a couple of times, and she made an offer. Jes literally opened the publishing doors for me. I appreciate all her thoughtful suggestions and the love and support she has given to Astrid and her story.

Those are great comps and Jes sounds amazing to work with.

What is something you would like your readers to take away from this story?

I hope this book will show children that in order to make their dreams come true, they have to put in the effort, follow through, and ask for help if something doesn’t go right. 

I hope that parents take away the message that our children are going to thrive when we give them support, guidance, and love no matter how big or small their dream is.

And, finally, I hope that both children and parents will see that the key to it all is patience.

The illustrations in your book are amazing! Did you get to work directly with illustrator Olivia Aserr? If so, what was it like?

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I did not, unfortunately, get to work with Olivia directly. However, my publisher included me in the process, for which I’m thankful. They asked for my vision as far as scenes and characters go, sent over the very first character sketches (amazing), followed by the cover illustration (OMG!), then the first pages, and kept me up to date with the progress of the book. Although I never got to talk to Olivia, it feels like we were on the same brain wavelength. Or she snuck into my mind while I was asleep, scooped up the characters, and brought them out into the world. Her illustrations are exactly like I had envisioned. When I first saw the cover of ASTRONAUT TRAINING, the saying, Never judge a book by its cover, popped into my head, and I was like, “Scratch that. Please judge my book by its cover. It’s absolutely gorgeous!”

I would agree! It’s truly an eye-catcher.

I guess I’d say, be like Astrid. Follow your dream, don’t be afraid to make a mess out of your MS–it can always be cleaned up, but also don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many wonderful authors and writing communities either on Twitter or Facebook that offer everything from writing advice to manuscript swaps. Join in and be part of the kidlit world. Communicate, collaborate, connect. Polish that MS and hit send. Most importantly–don’t count your rejections. All you need is that one YES. (Patience!)

Fabulous advice.

What is coming up next for you?

I am back on the Submission Train, so more books, I hope. I am now an agented author, and have multiple MSs, from PBs to dark fairytales and adult romcoms, of which several are out on submission. Thus, most of my day is spent by either crossing my fingers or obsessively checking my email. Sometimes I manage to write a line or a chapter. After that, I grab a spoon and dig into my jar of Nutella. 

If any readers want to learn more about you or follow you on social media, where can they find you?

Readers can find me on:

Twitter: @AnetaCruz

Instagram: @aneta.cruz

Good luck to you. I can’t wait to see more amazing work with your name on it!

Thank you for writing and sharing your story with us. Also, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!

It was my pleasure, Katie. I wish all your readers only the best and hope that they will never give up on their dreams.

As an added bonus, Aneta is kindly offering a non-rhyming fiction picture book critique to one lucky reader of this post! All you have to do is share this post on Twitter or comment on this post, and follow my blog to enter. The contest ends on Friday, April 9th at 7 pm CST.

You can purchase ASTRONAUT TRAINING here.

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

# Fall Writing Frenzy

It’s that time of year when the leaves fall and change colors, and the weather gets colder. It’s also time for…another writing contest! Yay!

Hosted by author Lydia Lukidis and agent/author Kaitlyn Sanchez, here’s how it goes. Pick one of their fall images and write a 200-word story, mood piece, or poem to go with it. That’s it!

The Image I picked:

THE ALMOST WITCH

164-Words

Deep in the woods, buried beneath the crimson and golden leaves  

Autumn hunts for a stick. 

Not just any stick.

A sword?

A staff?

A magic wand!

“Perfect!” 

Swish. Swish.

Autumn wields it in the sky.

“Zip! Zap! Zoom! I turn you into a broom!”

Poof!

The broom wiggle waggles through the air. 

“It worked!” 

Autumn leaps aboard and… she’s off!  

“Whoa! Easy. Easy!”

Swirling and whirling through the forest,

her broom dodges branches and trees.

“Steady! Steady!” Autumn calls.

They flit along the lily pad pond.

It oozes and goozes green, bubbly slime.

“Zip! Zap! Slow!”

The broom halts.

To be a true witch, Autumn needed a potion.

A wicked potion.

A tasty potion.

She cupped her hands and…

SLURP!

“What a scrumptious treat. Perfect for a witch like me!” 

Eek! 

Her nose twitched and itched.

Her toes curled.

“I’m green!

Such a lovely green…

But a froggy green!”

Ribbit.

“Oh no.” 

Ribbit

“Broom! Quick! Help!

Zip! Zap! Zoom! Unturn me from a…”

Ribbit.

——————————–

And there you have it! Thanks for stopping by!

Susanna Hill’s Valentine Contest

In the midst of revising a story and writing a couple of articles, why not add a fun little contest to the list! Ha! Children’s author, Susannah Hill, is hosting her fourth annual Valentine contest.

While I wasn’t able to put as much time into it as I’d like, I still enjoyed participating and giving it a whirl!

The story has to be kid appropriate, maximum 214-words, in which someone feels guilty. What fun!

Here we go!

Lovey-Dovey Ollie

214-words

Ollie Octopus swirled and twirled on a wave of love. After all, Octopuses have three hearts.

Ollie blew a kiss to a swimming Seahorse.
“Bleck. Enough of the smooshy-wooshy love,” cried Seahorse.

Ollie wrapped her arms around a grumpy Hermit Crab.
“Please, no hugs.” He snapped.

She batted her eyes at the Banded Butterflyfish.
“Is something the matter?” wondered the Butterflyfish.

When Ollie swam near, the snails squirmed, the fish flittered, and the seahorses raced away.

They were tired of her lovey-dovey ways.

With broken hearts, Ollie hopped on a current and surfed out to sea.

Whoosh! The water crashed and thrashed around her.

“Help!” cried a voice.

“Oh no!” gasped Ollie.

Grumpy Hermit Crab swirled and whirled past on a current.

Ollie flexed her arms and STRETCHED as far as she could reach.

Sloop!

She suctioned Hermit Crab and pulled with all of her might.

Plunk!

Ollie wrapped Hermit Crab in a hug.

Whoa! Ollie thought. I have superstrength!

“You saved me!” thanked Hermit Crab.

Ollie blushed.

“I’m sorry for being a little too lovey-dovey,” said Ollie. “ From now on, I will focus on using my super strength.”

Back at the reef, Hermit Crab shared Ollie’s heroic story and Ollie flipped and flexed her arms.

“Three cheers for Ollie!” The sea creatures chanted.

New Year, New Ideas

The new year is upon us, and there’s another writing challenge about to begin.

If you’ve ever visited my site before, you know how much I love writing contests and seeking out ways to help me generate new ideas. If you’ve never been here, well, I love writing contests and seeking out ways to help me generate new ideas. 🙂

Why? They push me to create. While some of the ideas remain locked inside my GoogleDocs without seeing the light of day, others take on a different form and are like a jumping off point a.k.a. somewhere to get started.

It’s about creating. Getting words on paper that can, and often do, spark a new idea. The best writing feeling in the world? When that idea pops in your mind and BAM! You write, and write, and can’t stop until every last word is down. Obviously, the story is nowhere close to being finished. But, it’s not about that. It’s the feeling of motivation and inspiration all in one. That, you’ve-just-got-to-get-it-down-on-paper feeling.

Where am I going with this?

Each January another awesome and free (yes, free!) writing challenge begins. It’s called Storystorm. Chances are you’ve heard of it. If not, you’re in for a treat! Hosted by Tara Lazar, a fabulous children’s book author, Storystorm is for all writers. “Any genre, style, student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author, or professional,” can join Tara says.

Intrigued? Here’s how to start:

Begin by signing up on her website. Then, every day in January you will receive a daily post with a writing challenge. The objective is to garner 30 new writing ideas by the end of the month. Some might see the light of day, others may remain locked in your GoogleDocs. 🙂 Again, it’s about creating.

But wait! There are prizes! If you create 30 ideas by the end of the month, you sign a pledge on her website, and you’re eligible to win some awesome prizes like professional consults, book signings, original art, and more.

So, if you’re looking for some extra motivation in the new year and want to have more ideas in your back pocket, come join us. If you’re looking to take part in something fun just because, come join us.

If you have another idea that keeps you writing and creating, please share in the comments below. Like I said, I’m always open to new ideas. 🙂

Cheers to the new year and happy writing!

Holiday Contest

It’s that time of year for jolly, holly fun! After a recent revision on one of my manuscripts, I needed to take a break, try something new, and recharge. So why not enter a holiday writing contest? Perfect! This one is put on by the fabulous picture book writer Susanna Leonard Hill

The guidelines?

  1. It must be kid-friendly
  2. 250-words or less
  3. About a holiday hero or act of heroism

Thanks, Susanna for putting on another fun writing contest

Inspired by my family’s recent trip to the Christmas tree farm, here is my submission. Happy reading and happy holidays to you!

LITTLE SPRUCE 

236-WORDS

Out in the country and high on the hill sprawled a Christmas tree farm. Hidden among the tall, perfectly shaped Evergreens, grew the short, and crooked trees that no one wanted.

“It’s not fair.” Little Spruce shook. “I’ll never find a good home. I’m too small.”

“But you have strong branches,” said a Fir tree.

“Perfect for hanging ornaments.” swayed another.

No one would ever want a tree like me. Little Spruce thought.

Just then, he heard a voice. “Over here, Grandpa!”

A young girl in a knitted hat popped out from behind Little Spruce. Not far behind an exhausted old man followed. “I think we’ve tested every tree,” Grandpa laughed. “How about we take this one?” 

Molly waved the branch up and down. “No. Too wobbly.”

She tried another.

Suddenly, Little Spruce felt a tug. 

“It’s perfect!” said Molly. “Grandma will love it!” 

Little Spruce shook with excitement. Was he finally getting a home? He wondered.

After arriving at the hospital, Molly carefully hung each ornament on Little Spruce’s branches.  

“I knew you were strong enough,” Molly whispered to Little Spruce.

Little Spruce didn’t care about being small anymore. Instead, he was mighty.

“Are you ready?” the nurse peeked in.

Molly nodded.

The nurse slowly pushed Grandma in her wheelchair.

Grandma’s eyes lit up. She waved for the nurse to push her closer. “So strong.” Grandma marveled at Little Spruce. “And beautiful.”

“Just like you,” said Molly.


Halloween Contest

 

Author Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 8th annual Halloween writing contest. Here’s the catch from Susanna’s blog:

TH8TH ANNUAL HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST
~ FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS ~
AAHHHRRROOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words shivercauldron, and howl.  Your story can be scary, funny, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over).

I love being challenged to write something in so little words. It gets those creative juices flowing! Check out her sight to read other fabulous and frightening entries. Thanks, Susanna for the festive activity!

Here are my entries:

Halloween Surprise (99-words)

“Last stop,” Dad says pausing by an old house.

I squeeze his hand.

“This isn’t Grandma and Grandpa’s?”

“Come on.” He winks.

The wind howls around me.

I shiver. Even my fairy wings tremble.

Dad knocks.

Creeaakk…

Inside, a cauldron bubbles.

An old lady wearing a pointed hat stirs the pot.

“Come in,” she cackles.

I hide behind Dad.

“Her stew’s full of eyeballs and spiders!” I whisper.

I yank Dad to escape.

“Happy Halloween!”

“Grandma!” I giggle at her witch costume.

“Welcome to our BOO-tiful new house!” Grandpa howls, carrying candy.

“Now, that’s a trick, but such a treat!”

 

Halloween Mishap (90-words)

Time has come

What to be?

On this frightful Halloween.

 

Find a spell

add some goo

In the cauldron, stir the brew.

 

Gulp! I sip

down it goes

Pop! Out sticks a pointy nose?

 

What is this?

The wrong spell?

I’m not feeling very well.

 

Long black hair

to my knees,

In flies Broomstick on a breeze.

 

Help! I cry,

and I howl

now I’m feeling very foul.

 

Pop! A wart

more green skin,

shiver like a skeleton.

 

It’s too late

I guess I’ll be,

just a witch for Halloween.

 

 

#50PreciousWords

I participated in this year’s #50PreciousWords contest hosted by children’s author Vivian Kirkfield. The guidelines?

  1. Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, using only 50 words…they can all be different words, or you can use some of them over and over…just as long as the total word count of the story is 50 or less.

What a fun and exciting opportunity! To make it even better, I became one of the 20 winners! Wow.

If you’re looking for a writing challenge, check it out and give it a whirl. Next up? Vivian created the same challenge, but for kids. I know my students will love this!

Happy Writing!